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NCS Code of Practice

The National Conciliation Service (NCS) is an alternative dispute resolution (ADR) scheme which has been accredited and regulated by the Chartered Trading Standards Institute (CTSI). The NCS handles complaints/disputes regarding contractual obligations in sales contracts and service contracts where one party is a ‘consumer' resident in the UK/EU, and the other business party (‘trader’), is a member of a trade association/federation or business, who hold the NCS on retention for ADR Services as listed below:

  • The Retail Motor Industry Federation (RMI)
  • one of the RMI’s eight associations
  • AutoCare Garages
  • Battery Industry Association
  • Bosch Car Service Garages
  • Cherished Numbers Dealers Association
  • Federation of Engine Re-Manufacturers
  • Independent Automotive Aftermarket Federation
  • Independent Garage Association
  • Motorcycle Industry Association
  • National Association of Motor Auctions
  • National Body Repair Association
  • National Franchised Dealers Association
  • National Motorcycle Dealers Association
  • National Tyre Distributors Association
  • Petrol Retailers Association
  • Vehicle Builders and Repairers Association
  • a third-party organisation who holds the NCS on retention for ADR services (see below*)

*The NCS provides ADR services to a number of trade associations/federations and business organisations within the Retail Motor Industry. A full list of the of current subscribers can be found here or by contacting the NCS

1) Types of cases handled by the NCS

NCS accepts both domestic and cross border disputes arising from contracts (and contractual obligations) between a consumer and trader which have been concluded in person or online. The NCS can also handle connections made through the Online Dispute Resolution (ODR) platform.

2) Declining to deal with a consumer complaint

At its discretion, NCS may decline to consider a dispute relating to the nature of the case for one or more of the following reasons:

i. the consumer did not first attempt to resolve the complaint directly with the trader;

ii. the dispute is frivolous or vexatious;

iii. the dispute is currently being, or has in the past been, considered by another ADR entity or court;

iv. the value of the claim falls below £50;

v. the consumer has not submitted the dispute to the NCS within 12 months from the date the trader gave the consumer their ‘final’ response or decision over the matter

vi. dealing with such a type of dispute would otherwise seriously impair the effective operation of the NCS: for example, on the grounds of complexity or for claims relating to physical injury or mental stress when matters are better dealt with in court.

If the NCS declines to deal with a dispute, NCS will provide both parties with a reasoned explanation as to the grounds for this decision within three weeks of receiving the ‘complete’ complaint file.

3) Qualities of case handlers

Profile

NCS ensures:

i. case handlers are independent and impartial;

ii. case handlers possess the necessary knowledge and skills in the field of ADR;

iii. case handlers possess the necessary knowledge and skills in resolution of consumer disputes;

iv. case handlers have a good understanding of consumer law and legislation;

v. case handlers do not receive instructions from either party involved in the dispute;

vi. case handlers operate in accordance to the European Code of Conduct for Mediators

Training

NCS provides appropriate training for case handlers as and when required and provides details of training programmes in the two-yearly report to CTSI.

Appointment

Case handlers are appointed for a 5-year term of office, which the NCS considers to be of sufficient duration to ensure that they act with independence and impartiality.

NCS ensures:

i. a case handler cannot be removed without just cause;

ii. a case handler is not remunerated in a way that is linked to the outcome of procedures/cases.

Conflict of interest

A case handler is under an obligation to disclose to the NCS any circumstance/s that may affect their independence and impartiality, or that may be seen to affect their independence and impartiality or give rise to a conflict of interests with either party involved in the dispute – either business or consumer.

The obligation to disclose any conflict of interest is present throughout the entirety of the case procedure.

Where a case handler has declared a conflict of interest and/or a concern regarding their independence or impartiality:

i. NCS will replace the case handler; or (failing that)

ii. NCS will offer the parties the opportunity to transfer the dispute to another NCS case handler who can deal with the dispute; or (failing that)

iii. NCS will disclose the circumstances to the parties, and if both parties agree to it (having been told of their right to object), the case handler will continue to handle the dispute and oversee the ADR procedure.

In the unlikely event that NCS has only one case handler, the obligation for the case handler to disclose any conflicts of interest/concerns about independence and impartiality to the NCS does not apply. But the NCS may offer both parties the right to transfer the dispute to another ADR provider, which can deal with the dispute; or (failing that) NCS will disclose the circumstances to the parties, and if both parties agree to it (having been told of their right to object), the case handler will continue to handle the dispute and oversee the ADR procedure..

4) Handling of cases and party data

Website and online complaint submissions

NCS website: https://www.nationalconciliationservice.co.uk/

NCS maintains an up-to-date website which provides parties with easy to access information about the case handling procedure. The NCS website enables consumers to submit complaints online, and to submit required supporting documentation, relevant to the case.

The information found on the website can be provided to either party, at its request, on a durable medium.

Offline complaint submissions

Consumers can submit a complaint offline, for example, via post:

ADDRESS;
National Conciliation Service
P.O. Box 6562
Rugby
CV21 9QP

Data handling

The NCS enables the exchange of information between the parties by electronic means, or (if the dispute is being handled offline) by post.

The NCS complies with the General Data Protections Regulation as detailed in the Data Protection Act 2018 when processing personal data.

NCS’s ‘privacy policy’, which details how NCS processes, stores and handles your personal data, can be found here; or can be provided in paper form upon request:

Goods or Services Bought online

Consumers who have made a purchase for goods or services ‘online’, can also file their complaint via the Online Dispute Resolution (ODR) platform or by way of this link.

Representation

The parties are not are not required to appoint a lawyer or legal advisor for the purposes of ADR procedures but are free to have one, or be represented by a third party if they so wish.

Fees

NCS Conciliation/Mediation ADR process is available free to consumers. Charges may apply for requests of legally binding Arbitration or Adjudication

5) Procedure

Before the Procedure begins, NCS will inform the parties that they have the right to withdraw from the procedure at any stage and for any reason, or if they are dissatisfied with the performance or operation of the ADR process

However, this right does not exist for the trader where the trader is under a legal obligation to participate in the procedure via legislation or their trade associations/federations rules or code of practice

Where the procedure provides for NCS to impose a ‘binding’ solution, the parties must be informed of its ‘binding’ nature in advance and must accept this. (Acceptance by the trader is not required if the trader is under a legal or trade association obligation to accept the solution)

Within a reasonable timeframe, each party must have the opportunity to:

  • express their point of view and
  • receive the arguments, evidence, documents and facts put forward by the other party, and
  • receive any statements made and opinions given by experts, and
  • comment on these arguments and opinions.

NCS will notify both parties once it has received all the documentation which constitutes the complete complaint file.

Where the Procedure provides for NCS to suggest or recommend a settlement to the parties (as opposed to ‘imposing’ a settlement upon them), the NCS must inform the parties:

i. that they have a choice as to whether to accept the proposed settlement,

ii. of the legal effect of accepting the proposed settlement,

iii. that participation in the procedure does not prevent them from taking the matter to court,

iv. that the proposed settlement may be different to the decision a court would reach.

However, where the trader is under a legal or trade association ‘obligation’ to accept the settlement if the consumer has accepted it, the above rights do not apply to the trader (and therefore the information requirement on the NCS does not exist in this situation)

NCS will normally complete the procedure within 90 calendar days of receiving the ‘complete’ complaint file.

However, in the exceptional case of a highly complex dispute, NCS may extend the 90-day deadline and will inform the parties of the extension and its expected length if possible

Where a dispute has been submitted through the ODR platform the NCS will advise the consumer ‘if’ it cannot deal with the dispute using the ODR platform within 3 weeks of receiving the complaint. If the NCS can deal with the dispute received via the ODR platform, both parties will be notified accordingly, and the procedure/s will follow the aforementioned procedure/s for binding and non-binding cases. The NCS will notify each party of the outcome of the procedure and give a statement of the grounds on which the outcome has been reached, in writing or on a durable medium.

Where the Procedure provides for NCS to suggest a settlement to the parties (as opposed to imposing a settlement upon them), NCS will give both parties a reasonable period of time to reflect on the proposed settlement.

Where the trader is under a legal obligation to accept the settlement, once the consumer has accepted the settlement, the above right of reflection does not apply to the trader

Where complaints are received through the ODR Platform, the NCS will inform the ODR Platform, as soon as practically possible after conclusion of the complaint;

  1. The date of receipt of the ‘complete complaint file’.
  2. The subject matter of the dispute.
  3. The date of the conclusion of the ADR procedure.
  4. The result of the ADR procedure
  5. The specific information in relation to ODR sourced complaints that need to be provided to the parties of the ODR platform by the approved ADR entity

6) ADR settlements

Where the Procedure provides for NCS to impose a settlement on the consumer, and the dispute is purely a domestic dispute (i.e. between a UK resident consumer and a UK established trader), the settlement does not deny the consumer his/her UK statutory consumer protections. 

Where the procedure provides for NCS to impose a settlement on the consumer, and the dispute is a cross-border dispute (i.e. between a UK established trader and a non- UK resident consumer, or where a non- UK established trader has elected to use a UK NCS trader and the consumer comes from a different EU Member State to the trader), the settlement does not deny the consumer his/her statutory consumer protections under the law of the EU Member State where they are resident.

This provision does not apply to those contracts which are excluded from the scope of Directive 593/2008 ("Rome 1") (see Article 6(4) of Rome I) or from the scope of the Rome Convention 1980 (see Article 5(4) and (5) of the Rome Convention 1980).

7) Public information

NCS provides the following information on its website, and on a durable medium upon request, and by any other means which NCS considers appropriate. The information is clear and easily understandable.

i. NCS's contact details, including postal address and email address

ii. a statement that NCS is listed by the CTSI as a certified ADR body

iii. information about the case-handlers, their method of appointment and their length of mandate

iv. the NCS is in a network of ADR Entities which facilitate cross-border ADR

v. the types of dispute NCS is competent to deal with

vi. any monetary thresholds which apply to the disputes NCS will deal with

vii. the grounds on which NCS may decline to deal with a dispute (i.e. one or more of the 6 permitted grounds detailed above)

viii. the languages in which disputes can be submitted

ix. the types of rules NCS may use as a basis for its dispute resolution (e.g. legislation, considerations of equity, codes of conduct etc)

x. the requirements the parties (both consumer and trader), must meet before the Procedure can be initiated (consumers are required to contact the trader with a view to resolving the complaint bilaterally before NCS will accept the dispute)

xi. whether or not the parties can withdraw from the Procedure once it has been started

xii. the costs to the parties, including any rules on awarding costs at the end of the Procedure

xiii. the average length of Procedures carried out by NCS

xiv. the legal effect of the outcome of the Procedure (i.e. is it binding on the parties/ a party or is it a suggested outcome for the parties), its enforceability and the penalty for non-compliance

xv. a link to the Commission's website which lists all ADR Entities

8) Reports

In respect of transparency and fairness, NCS is obliged under the EU Directive to regularly report on its processes and disputes. The NCS completes this obligation in the following ways:

By way of annual and biannual CTSI Audit and activity reports, and by regular audit and Inspection by the NCS Independent Compliance Panel (ICP)

8a) Annual Activity Reports

NCS publishes on its website (and on a durable medium by request), and by any other means it considers appropriate, an annual Activity Report

The Annual Activity Report contains the following information:

i. the number of disputes it received

ii. the types of complaints the disputes related to

iii. the number of disputes NCS has declined to deal with and the percentage share of types of ground for the refusal

iv. the percentage share of Procedures which were discontinued and (if known) the reasons for their discontinuation

v. observations of any systematic or significant problems that frequently lead to disputes between consumers and traders. These observations can be accompanied by recommendations as to how such problems can be avoided

vi. the average time taken by the NCS to resolve the disputes

vii. the rate of compliance with ADR settlements, if known

viii. cooperation of NCS within networks of ADR Entities which facilitate the resolution of cross-border disputes, if applicable

8b) Two yearly reporting

Every two years the NCS reports to CTSI on:

i. the number of disputes it received

ii. the types of complaints the disputes related to

iii. the average time taken by NCS to resolve the disputes

iv. the rate of compliance with ADR settlements, if known

v. observations of any systematic or significant problems that frequently lead to disputes between consumers and traders. These observations can be accompanied by recommendations as to how such problems can be avoided

vi. an assessment of the effectiveness of the NCS's cooperation of ADR within networks of ADR Entities which facilitate the resolution of cross-border disputes, if applicable

vii. the training it provided to its case handlers

viii. an assessment of the effectiveness of the Procedures offered by the NCS and possible ways of improving its performance.

8c) Recognition as an `ADR Entity'

NCS sends to the CTSI the following information:

i. name, contact details and website address

ii. information on its structure and funding, including information on the most senior ADR case handlers: their remuneration, term of office, and official employer

iii. its procedural rules

iv. its fees if any

v. the average length of Procedures

vi. the languages in which complaints can be submitted

vii. the types of dispute NCS is competent to deal with

viii. the grounds on which NCS may decline to deal with a dispute (i.e. one or more of the 6 permitted grounds)

ix. whether NCS produces recommended settlements or binding settlements required info Art 9(5)(e). NCS informs the CTSI whenever any of this information changes

9) NCS and other bodies

9a) Co-operation with other bodies

NCS co-operates with UK consumer protection authorities. This co-operation covers mutual exchange of information on practices in specific business sectors, about which consumers have repeatedly lodged complaints as required under EU Directive.

NCS can call upon a UK consumer protection authority to provide it with a technical assessment or information; where NCS feels that such a technical assessment or information is necessary for the processing of an individual dispute. The UK consumer protection authority must provide such a technical assessment or information if it already has such an assessment/ information to hand.

NCS participates in cross-border ADR networks where such networks exist.

NCS co-operates with other ADR entities in the resolution of cross-border disputes within the EU, which includes regular attendance at ADR seminars and events where exchanges of best practices are shared and discussed regarding the settlement of both cross-border and domestic disputes.

10) Procedure review

The NCS will review its policies and procedures periodically to ensure that it complies fully with UK and/or EU legislation